This has been proclaimed as “The Year of Account-Based Marketing” by several industry thought-leaders, including Craig Rosenberg and Scott Brinker. In the wake of all the recent publicity, some have begun loudly hypothesizing about how ABM could be the death knell of . . . just about everything. Suddenly, there are blog posts everywhere about ABM will be turning out the lights on Marketing Automation, Inbound, Content Marketing, Demand Generation, and on and on.
You can’t open up LinkedIn or Twitter anymore without seeing breathless predictions that the end is near for various, proven strategies for marketers. Oh, and they typically conclude with a pithy product pitch and how you just can’t do ABM without their solution. So, hurry. You don’t want to miss out.
Sorry, but here is the reality: ABM is being framed. Account-Based Marketing isn’t going to be the death of any, single tactic.
Instead, it’s another tool to use in your arsenal. There is real value in ABM for your business. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon everything that has been working for the newest shiny toy in the marketing universe. Account-Based Marketing actually is ushering in a new era of a more focused marketer who cares more about results and has a Total Addressable Market and price-point that justify the tactics.
In particular, the idea that ABM is going to spell doom for inbound marketing simply is non-sensical.
Marketing technology consultant Josh Hill had it correct when he wrote recently about the ABM versus Inbound debate: “The dichotomy is false. ABM is a framework that goes deeper into personas and segmentation. There’s no reason to abandon inbound for ABM. Inbound is just one tool whether you’re focused on the net or the spear.”
In other words, this is not an either-or proposition. Rather, a new combination of both is emerging that will bring companies the highest return for marketing dollars. If you love the nets-and-spears metaphor, then think about ABM and Inbound like this: ABM is the spear to capture your high-value targets. But that sharp spear does you no good when there are no fish in sight. If your prospects are hiding, lurking in the shadows beyond your sight, you need to draw them out before you can begin to hunt.
In that case, consider Inbound Demand Generation something similar to baiting the water. That enticement has the potential to lure out your prospects. Once your big fish are in sight, then you can use the ABM spear. But don’t just sit there waiting for the big one to come along without any help from proven tactics.
Sean Zinsmeister, senior director of product marketing at Infer, puts it this way: “Marketers can’t afford to sit back and wait for all prospects to show up at their doorstep. They need to be filling the top of the funnel with outbound or net-new lead generation to feed sales reps and increase potential revenue. The last thing businesses want to do is forfeit a good account simply because they weren’t aware of it.“
What will continue to evolve is not the meta-concept about the future existence of Inbound Marketing. It’s the specifics of how inbound tactics are utilized. Already, broad match vendors are feeling the pressure of bringing new focus on target accounts. Some are rising to the challenge and innovating on approaches that enable one-to-one interactions with a more relevant audience. Think of it like using a specific kind of bait your particular fish finds most appealing. The key is figuring out what works best to lure those big fish – or whales – from their hiding places.
This has profound implications for marketers. You see, it isn’t only a vendor’s responsibility to assist businesses to make quality interactions happen with key prospects. It’s the marketer’s responsibility to focus their content efforts on the things which truly show value to their prospects. Marshmallow marketing that’s all fluff and no substance won’t meet the demands of a targeted, account-based campaign. You need materials and messaging that speaks to the individual needs and motivations of each of your buyers. So sure, sophisticated marketers will make changes to the ways they attract prospects. There are going to be changes to Inbound. But this isn’t a “Video Killed the Radio Star” moment.
Misha Abasov, the marketing operations manager at Allocadia, believes ABM gives marketers a much stronger understanding of their buyers. In turn, that will improve the Inbound strategy.
“At its core, Inbound Marketing is about earning people’s attention through great content,” Abasov said. “This principle is still extremely useful when applied to ABM. It can help you foster amazing relationships with the people you’re marketing to. . . . ABM reinforces Inbound and Inbound reinforces ABM. It’s a peanut butter-and-jelly kind of relationship.”
That means content marketing also will not be going anywhere. Marketers need more content, not less.
Simply put, ABM should be an integral piece of your entire marketing plan.
“I don’t think that Account-Based Marketing is a fad that’s going to fade away,” Maria Pergolino, senior vice president of marketing at Apttus said recently. “ABM needs to be part of a marketing mix. And it likely already was part of their mix even before everyone started talking about it.”
At LeanData, we think about the inbound-and-outbound model in a more holistic way. I strive to maintain an 80/20 split in my work between targeted and untargeted activities. Because we aren’t constricted by our TAM, we have the ability to target more accounts than we can actively work. We put 20 percent of our effort into those top-of-the-funnel efforts that are easy to scale and drive inbound interest.
The vast majority of our time is spent thinking about our target buyers. What are their needs? What is their pain? What are their motivations? We tailor our activities to meet those needs. That can mean supporting the sales team in their outbound efforts or creating quality interactions with our topic prospects.
We use our targeted inbound to trigger outbound efforts. By picking up on buying signals that inbound offers present, we can tailor our outbound approach to meet the needs of that account. That hand-raising helps us determine when they’re ready to purchase versus just doing initial research. The yin-and-yang of that “smarketing” approach contributed to a 3x increase in year-over-year bookings.
Sean Zinsmeister also is a believer in that approach.
“Account-Based Marketing should be a holistic strategy that combines both inbound and outbound tactics. Inbound focuses on identifying the best contacts in your database, matching them to the right accounts, and executing tactics to educate and accelerate the sales cycle,” he said.
So declare death at your peril. But I’d advise you to use all the tactics in your toolbox to effectively generate revenue for your business. In truth, Account-Based Marketing represents the rise of the focused marketer.